A Ball part 7

At last my quadrille came. The band played the symphony, and the dancers hastened to seek their partners. My heart almost burst from my dress when I saw my dancer approach and, bowing low, press the little flower to his heart. I fear my hand trembled as he took it in his, but I only smiled and made some observation about the music.

“Ah, you are carrying off my neighbor,” cried the Major laughing, with one of his annihilating gesticulations.

As we joined the Golumns, somebody whispered behind us, “What a well-matched couple!”

Ah, lima, how happy I was! I felt, as we stood there hand in hand, as if his blood were flowing into mine, and mine into his!

We waited for the music, but before it could begin, the noise of horses` feet was heard galloping up the street and, at the same time, several cannon were fired at a distance, which made all the windows rattle. Suddenly an officer entered the ball-room with his csako on his head, and cover

A Ball part 6

Unfortunately, I was engaged. What would I not have given at that moment had a courier entered to call away my dancer!

“Perhaps the next one?” said the Captain, seating himself beside me.

I do not know what I said, or whether I replied at all; I only know I felt as I do when flying in a dream.

“But you will forget, perhaps, that you promised me?” he continued.

Had I not suddenly recollected myself, I should probably have told him that sooner could I forget my existence. However, I only replied III a very indifferent tone that I should not forget.

‘But you do not know me!”

A country simpleton would have answered, in my place, “Among a hundred—among thousands! At the first glance!”

Not I! As if I were doing the simplest thing in the world, I took a single rosebud from my breast and gave it to him. “I shall know you by this,” I said, without betraying the slightest agitation.


A Ball part 5

“Ah, mamma, why, officers are not allowed to marry in time of war,” I reminded her, laughing.

On this, she scolded me still more, called me a little goose, and told me I should find out to my cost; and with this threat she left me to prepare for the ball. I was busy enough until evening, getting everything ready. According to the officer`s advice, I wore a broad, red- white-and-green ribbon as a sash, and my coiffure was a simple bouquet of white and red roses, to which the green leaves gave the National color. I never observed before how well these colors blend.

The two officers waited on us en pleine parade, and paid us so many compliments I could not imagine how they learned them all. I was obliged to laugh to put off my embarrassment.

“Well, you will see, tears will be the end of all this,” said mamma, but nevertheless she continued arranging and altering something or ol her about my dress, so that if they did carry me off, they should at

A Ball part 4

I showed him the room, and without the slightest consideration as to whether it was proper to wake them, after being two whole days without rest, he walked coolly into the room. I expected they would have immediately cut the man in pieces for disturbing them, instead of which, in a few minutes, they both appeared, completely dressed, and followed the orderly without the slightest sign of displeasure. The Major had sent for them.

How strange this military life must be! How people can submit without the least resistance! I should be a very bad soldier indeed, for I always like to know beforehand why I am ordered to do a thing.

In about half an hour the officers returned—no ill-humor or sleepiness was visible; they did not even return to their rooms, but asked for mamma, and me and announced to us in very flattering terms that the officers` corps had improvised a ball for that night, to which we were invited, and then they immediately begged to engage me for a F

A Ball part 3

“Indeed,” I exclaimed, “it must have been very uncomfortable to have been obliged to sleep on a divan, or even in a camp-bed for six entire weeks!”

They both laughed. “On the bare ground—on the snow—under the open sky,” they replied.

Oh, heavens! Even our servants would have died, had they been obliged to pass one winter`s night out of doors. I begged them to follow me, and showed them our best room, in which there were two beds. As the servants were all out, I was going to make down the beds myself.

“Oh, we cannot allow that!” they both exclaimed. “We can do that ourselves,” and, seeing they had need of rest, I bowed and hastened to leave them alone.

Scarcely had I reached my own room when I heard a terrible shriek which seemed to proceed from the apartment I had just left, and cries of “Help! Robbers! Murder!”

I knew the voice, but in my terror I could not remember whose it was, and still the cries con

A Ball part 2

As I was left quite alone, I thought the best thing I could do was to lay out the table with every sort of eatable and wine I could find, that at least these National Guards should not eat me, but find something else prepared for them; and I determined in my own mind to give them quietly everything they asked for, and let them see I did not fear them in the least. And then I waited with the utmost resignation to hear cries for help through the streets.


At last the sound of spurred footsteps and clinking swords echoed along the corridor, but no noise of swearing; au contraire, a very polite double knock at the door. In my terror or flurry, however, I had no power to say, Come in. But do not imagine they broke in the door with their muskets—not at all, they only repeated the knock and waited till I gave permission, in a trembling voice—expecting at least six dog-faced Tartars to enter, with square heads and skin caps—beards down to their girdles

A Ball part 1

Maurus Jokai (1825-1904)

Jokai is the most famous of all Hungarian novelists. It has been said that “if all the persons whom he has called to life in his novels were to appear… the multitude would line the streets for more than a mile.” So much for quantity; but Jokai was an artist as well. In his numerous short stories he was a keen if not a very subtle observer of the life about him.

He led a very active life, as politician, journalist and editor. A Ball is characteristic of his skill as a narrator: the simplicity of the point of view shown in this story must not deceive the reader. Notice that the incidents are related in a letter from one prim young lady to another, neither of whom would for a moment be able to understand such shocking war stories as were to be told later by men like Stephen Crane and Ambrose Bierce.

The present translation, published anonymously, is reprinted from Jokai`s Hungarian Sketches In Peace And War, Edinburgh, 1